Is Washington a “woman’s state”?

One of the first questions that is asked of me by my male clients is whether or not they should even bother to fight for custody of their child because they have heard that Washington is a “Women’s State”.  I’m not sure if people that ask this question think that there is actually written law that states that women shall be the custodial parents of children, or if there is a belief that judges will always rule against men in court.

Neither one is true.  While there are a lot of different factors that come in to play when deciding what a parenting plan is, the underlying question is “what’s in the best interest of the children?”  When analyzing how this applies to your case, ask yourself which party (has been the primary care parent (who feeds them meals, takes them to school, and interacts with them on a daily basis), and which party represents the best situation for the child\children moving forward (what’s the living situation of each home, who has the time and ability to care for the child moving forward).  This is a far more accurate way to look at how the court will rule if the issue is put in front of it.

Keep this in mind, and rethink the custody situation that you are in.  If the answers to the previous questions clearly points towards one parent, there is a good chance that that the court will grant them primary custody of the child.  If it is not clear, or if both parents present equal opportunities to the child, then there is a much better chance that you will be looking at shared custody.

The simple fact is, that in spite of the vast changes that our society has seen over the recent decades, mothers are still the primary care parents while a couple is together.  If a mother is the one that has been caring for the child, then it is likely that the court will want to keep that situation.  If you are a father that has taken a large role in raising your child, the court is not going to look to sever that role.  Washington is not a “woman’s state” so much as a “parent’s state”,  so there is no reason to discount your chances of custody of your children just because of your gender.

Do I need to pay child support?

One of the questions that I am most frequently asked is whether or not a parent has to pay child support.  If you find yourself asking this question, the answer is almost always “yes”.  Child Support in Washington State is outlined by RCW 26.19, which in short provides financial support to the custodial parent of a child from the noncustodial parent.  In short, if you do not have your child or children for the majority of the time (anything less than 50% of the time), then you will more likely than not be required to pay some amount of child support.

In Washington, child support is based upon three key factors: the number of children involved, the ages of the children, and the incomes of each parent.  Plugging that information into the economic table will give you a basic support obligation.  This is the amount that an obligor (non-custodial parent) must pay on a monthly basis.

A basic obligation may not be the final amount that you need to pay, as many other factors may come into play.  The law allows for the parties to deviate from the standard calculation depending on a number of different factors, including the amount of time that you spend with the child (more time spent equals less payment required) and the number of children you support (if you are paying child support to another person) to name a few.  In addition, there may be monthly expenses that a basic child support obligation doesn’t cover (such as daycare costs) that may be taken into consideration.

It is important to look at all of the relevant factors in your case to determine whether or not these deviations or additional expenses are applicable to your case.  Keep in mind that deviations are at the decision maker’s discretion.  That means that even if you are eligible for a deviation, a judge or commissioner may elect to not apply it in your case.